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COVID-199/11 Injuries

9/11 Survivors Urge Public to Wear Masks

October 5, 2020 | Michael Barasch

In the aftermath of September 11, some New Yorkers wore masks as worry began to spread about the dust hanging in the air in the areas around Ground Zero. In the years following the attacks, we found out that people were right to be worried, as more and more survivors developed respiratory problems and cancers linked to inhalation of the dust and debris.

Two decades later, we have a new worry — the coronavirus — and masks are a much bigger part of the conversation now than they were after 9/11. Members of the 9/11 community, many of whom are exceptionally vulnerable to COVID-19 due to respiratory diseases and weakened immune systems, are urging Americans to wear masks, not only for their own health but also for the health of those around them.

Amanda Toussaint, a Barasch & McGarry client who was at Ground Zero on 9/11 and now has stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, recently voiced that message to a Florida news outlet near her Jacksonville-area home. “I hope everybody realizes that this isn’t just about them,” Toussaint said. “It’s about everybody. [Masks] are necessary to protect themselves, but also for people like me.”

According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, nearly 770,000 lives worldwide would be saved between September 2020 and January 2021 if mask wearing and social distancing were practiced universally.

Having the 9/11 community advocate for mask wearing is important. The voices of the responders and survivors are respected, as people remember what they endured.

Perhaps the comparison of mask wearing to airport security is useful in explaining how masks have become such a hot button issue despite their obvious utility. 9/11 was a single day of dramatic attacks that left instantly recognizable destruction. Many people quickly realized that something tangible had to be done to prevent it from happening again, which led to our society accepting more stringent airport safety measures. COVID-19, on the other hand, is a creeping event, one that moves slowly compared to the suddenness of 9/11. Something about the virus makes it seem less urgent to many people, which could be part of why it’s so difficult to convince people to accept safety measures like mask-wearing.

At Barasch & McGarry, we’re proud to stand with the 9/11 community in encouraging people to wear masks. Our firm is dedicated to protecting the health and the legal rights of 9/11 responders and survivors. If you have any questions, please call our New York attorneys at [ln::phone] or contact us online.

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